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How Are Customer Communication Habits Changing? Or Not Changing?

The communication preferences of consumers continue to shift in America. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Americans are digitally connected now more than ever.

“As of September 2012, 85% of American adults have a cell phone, and 45% have a smartphone. As of early 2012, 58% have a desktop computer, 61% have a laptop, 18% own an e-book reader, and 18% have a tablet computer.”

Since 2006, many technologies have steadily increased in popularity with American consumers.

  • Cell phone use has increased over 15%.
  • Laptop computer usage has grown from 30% to 57% since 2006.
  • Tablet computers were first introduced in 2010, when only 3% of the population used them. Now, two years later, almost 20% of the population has adopted this technology.
  • In just one year, smartphone usage has increased over 10% among American consumers, from 35% to 45%.

One means of communication many Americans aren‘t using these days is the desktop computer. Since 2006, the usage of desktop computers has dropped dramatically from 68% to 55%.

Texting continues to grow…

The project also states that gadget ownership and adoption is usually correlated with a person’s age, education and household income. The use of those gadgets also varies widely amongst American consumers. While some Americans still have landline phones in their households, many Americans are adopting to use just a wireless phone provider to send and receive calls.

  • 53% of Americans prefer to receive calls instead of texting.
  • 31% prefer to receive a text message over a voice call.
  • 14% of Americans feel it depends on the situation.

The communication behaviors of many Americans also correlate with age.

Texting is continuing to grow in popularity. Young adults are the most avid texters in America by a rather large margin, specifically in the 18-29 years old range. Most American adults over the age of 50 still prefer voice calls and those consumers over the age of 65 seldom use texting (4.7%). They make and/or receive about 5 voice calls per day. Women text slightly more than men. It’s also surprising to note that those consumers with an annual household income of less than $30,000 text more than any other demographic (which is probably indicative of the younger audience). The project found that the texting and calling trends have leveled off- for now.

According to the project, voice calls and texting are also highly correlated. Cell phone owners who text often also make and receive a lot of voice calls.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project states:

  • Cell owners who send or receive 0-10 texts on a normal day, make or receive an average of 8.2 voice calls
  • Cell owners who send or receive 11-20 texts on a normal day, make or receive an average of 13.6 voice calls
  • Cell owners who send or receive 21-50 texts on a normal day, make or receive an average of 18.6 voice calls
  • Cell owners who send or receive more than 50 texts on a normal day, make or receive an average of 30.2 voice calls

The high correlation could be due to the specific behaviors of the demographic. If a consumer sends a higher number of texts, it is more likely that they also make and take a higher number of calls.

The communication trends of American consumers are interesting to study and learn. It gives great insight into how customers prefer to be contacted and also, the best ways to make sure each contact is successful and mutually beneficial.
At GCS, we talk a lot about the benefits of a blended environment and multi-channel communication. Given today’s diverse technological landscape, it’s imperative for any company’s marketing plan to invest the time and effort to learn the trends of its consumers. There are still the corners of society that prefer traditional means of outreach and communication but a company cannot afford to ignore the diverse and changing trends of its customer base.

If you are interested in expanding your program to target more consumers through multiple channels, give us a call and let us help you craft a program to reach out to every customer in their preferred channel.

Get in Touch with GCS

10 Reasons to Outsource with GCS

There are many reasons why someone should look to GCS as their source for outsource. Here are 10 solid reasons:

We keep the customer #1.

We are committed to serving as a professional extension of our client’s company to their valued customers. We perform outstanding customer service with zero defects. GCS has less than a .0022% complaint rate.

We have first-class agents at your service.

We invest in ongoing training and development of communication and presentation skills for our agents to ensure they can create positive dialogue with our clients’ customers. We are capable of over 2,000 FTE per day.

We provide multi-channel integration.

We can engage customers through most channels, including voice, text, IVR, and chat. GCS meets customers in their preferred channel, during the time of their choosing. As an example, we’ve delivered over 46,000 hours of wireless calling that generated fee income for some of the US’ largest banks.

We know how to sell.

Due to our roots in entrepreneurial business practices, GCS is nimble at creating a unique strategy in a timely manner to drive sales for our clients. If “coffee is for closers,” we should buy Starbucks stock at GCS. On average, we engage 70,000 dialogues with customers on behalf of our clients – every day.

Our business provides on shore and off shore options, including bilingual associates.

We offer centers in 4 states across the continental US, in a 200 seat location in Eastwood, Philippines and have bilingual English/Hispanic associates. 70% percent of our workstations are domestic and 30% are off-shore.

You’ll benefit from a blended contact center model.

A blended center environment affords our clients such benefits as saving time, money and resources, more agent utilization (up to 30%), and better coverage for their programs.

High quality program implementation delivered on time.

We meet our commitments and work “backwards” to outline all dependencies, milestones, and major tasks to meet goals on time. We can bring a new client on-board in as little as two weeks. As we work through the program implementation phase, we demonstrate our expertise and show how we enhance the client’s investment in our team. Our goal is to create a relationship where there’s mutual trust, respect, and benefit.

Insurance niche.

Our team includes insurance agents, licensed in 50 states, in both L&H and P&C. We hold over 20,000 licenses and appointments. Our track record of enrolling more than 30,000 insurance policies per month generates over $90 million in annual premiums for our clients.

We follow the rules of compliance.

A recent independent audit of 3,000 interactions found zero infractions by the GCS team. We are 100% compliant!

GCS has big company capabilities, with small company access.

Partnering with GCS gives our clients big company capabilities, with small company access. Each day we have thousands of conversations with the customers of Fortune 25 clients who have never heard of GCS. But our clients trust us to protect the customer-client relationship. The one-on-one attention we provide to our clients helps make OUR relationship stronger.

Now that is real value.

 Download a PDF version of our service highlights. 

 

Domestic Help or Work Abroad? Deciding where to Outsource Your Business Services

Businesses wanting to outsource interaction center and BPO processes face a complex set of decisions as they design an approach to customer care and communication. Once a business has decided to outsource portions of their business, they must choose whether to use a domestic, near-shore or off-shore BPO provider. Each of these options has there own pros and cons and ultimately each business will require a unique solution suited to its industry, character, and clientele. Even political pressure and social opinions can influence the decision. While this choice may seem daunting, you can determine the optimal model for your business by working with outsource providers like GCS, who can provide guidance, options and expertise in finding the best solution for your situation.

Off-shore BPO and Interaction Centers, such as our operations in the Philippines, offer significant strategic and financial advantages. By off-shoring, your company could achieve unprecedented efficiency and attention to customer concerns. International contact centers abroad are typically available at a much lower cost, largely due to the strength of the U.S. dollar and differences in the labor laws. With GCS, in addition to financial viability, you can be assured that your client center abroad will be staffed with dedicated, well-informed, and educated individuals who will make customer satisfaction their top priority. By investing in the communities we work with, providing comprehensive benefits, opportunities for career development, and a positive work environment, our team of representatives will naturally reflect the positive values of your company. With all of these benefits available at such a reduced cost, off-shoring might very well be an investment that your company cannot afford to pass up.

However, the optimal location of your company’s contact center will depend not only on overhead cost. Even if the service at a foreign contact center is of the highest quality and the price is unbeatable, some sectors or businesses will benefit in the long run by investing in a domestic communications site. Many individuals and companies have had frustrating experiences in the past with foreign contact centers, primarily due to language barriers or cultural misunderstandings, and would prefer to communicate with a native English speaker at a domestic center. This preference differs from one industry to the next; while the high-tech sector has very successfully utilized international call centers to manage their customer relations, other industries and business that rely more heavily on cultural factors unique to their home countries might benefit more from expensive domestic call centers.

Many businesses have found the most success utilizing a combination of off-shoring and domestic call centers. This combination of diversified resources enables a company to refer their customers to an international call center after domestic business hours, a service that many clients will be grateful for when they need it most. A call center abroad also allows companies to handle higher volumes of communications during peak hours at a lower cost than a team of exclusively domestic agents could offer.

GCS and our team of experienced representatives can accommodate each of these possible business plans. For many years, we have worked with businesses to determine the optimal approach to maximize customer satisfaction at a refreshingly manageable cost. Your continued success is our primary concern, and for this reason, we consistently and faithfully place the concerns of your client as our foremost priority.

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Reach Out to Customers on the Most Popular Communication Channels

When companies review their customer service levels, they typically rely on data from traditional telephone channels. However, as the Internet Generation reaches maturity and preceding generations adopt the technologies that the Internet Generation grew up using, consumers are expecting companies to offer methods of support other than standard contact center numbers. Competitive companies are adapting to these expanded expectations while maintaining their service level targets. Let’s review some of the alternative contact methods that companies are employing, and a few tips for using them successfully.

Social Media

While the bottom-line impact from social media presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn hasn’t been established, with over 10% of the world’s population using Facebook alone, customers expect companies to be available through social media. Although such interactions are public and that means that any negative interactions are aired in full view, this shouldn’t be used as a reason to avoid social media. Even negative comments can turn into a positive record when addressed quickly and thoroughly.

Email and Online Chat

According to Avaya, a communication technology leader, 40% of consumers prefer email and online chat to telephone contact – meaning companies that don’t support email or online chat could be unknowingly disappointing almost half of their customers before contact is made. Email and online chat offer full customer-to-business interaction, often at a lower per-interaction cost than traditional telephone communication, so there is little to lose by offering these capabilities.

Though at first glance email and chat may appear to be an informal communication channel, customers still expect quick response times and a professional attitude. Correct spelling and punctuation as well as a degree of personalization, such as using the customer’s name and references to the customer’s specific issue, should be inherent to the interaction. Companies that offer email and chat that meet these expectations will go a long way towards increasing customer satisfaction.

Mobile Phone Calling, Voicemails and Text Messaging

As consumers progressively abandon landlines to use mobile phones as their only telephone link, they are becoming more open to contact from companies on their mobile phones. Notably, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 31% of mobile phone owners who use text prefer to be contacted by text when someone needs to reach them. Though mobile phone outreach is convenient and inexpensive for companies to employ, not all mobile phone users are text users and many do not have unlimited calling plans, so companies must keep contact messages concise and relevant, while considering the customer’s time zone and likely activities (i.e., avoid outreach while customers are at work, or over mealtimes).

Video Messaging

As VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technologies become more accessible, consumers are entering the video messaging space to interact with companies, setting up for a VoIP revolution much like that seen with video-conferencing for business. Out of all channels, video messaging comes closest to face-to-face interaction with customers, providing huge potential for increased sales and overall customer satisfaction. While it isn’t yet widespread, adoption by companies and consumers is growing.

Your company should be seriously considering adding alternatives to its communication channel blend to ensure that you are offering the services that customers expect. Remember that no matter which communication channels your company has in play, it’s important that customers are treated well across all contact methods for a meaningful, positive impact on service levels and overall customer satisfaction.

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When You Go Surfing, Avoid Phishing

We are all aware of scams and phony emails, but can you really recognize the difference between a bogus email and a real one?

So what is phishing?

Phishing is a technique where scammers try to obtain personal information by creating and sending out email messages that look like legitimate business correspondence. A popular example of phishing is receiving an email posing as legitimate communication from your financial institution. Your bank will never, ever send you an email asking you to confirm your account or any of your personal information.

A lot of these emails look authentic because scammers use their logos, taglines and branding in a convincing manner. Do not be fooled. If something looks suspicious, do not open it. Delete it from your inbox. If you ever have specific questions about any of your online accounts, place a call to your financial institution to confirm any personal information.

Scammers target you because you know your passwords and delicate account information, like credit card and account numbers. Someone tries to use you to hack into your own account.

Always protect your online information. If something looks shady or sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The next time you go surfing, avoid phishing at all costs.

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Basic Computer Security Awareness

Basic Computer Security Awareness [Security Awareness Month at GCS]

Here at GCS this month we’re focusing on Security Awareness.  IT departments have a great responsibility at any company, but in a Contact Center they are responsible for all Telephony hardware and software along with company-wide hardware, software and security.

Security should not only IT’s responsibility. Everyone is responsible for security. IT can help with problems, but ultimate the individual is responsible for their own actions on their own computers.

Here you can watch our most recent Business Skills with Bucky meeting, where I run through some basic security you can use on your work computer (and your home computer!).

Learn:

  • Tips on creating a strong password
  • What are phishing and tailgating?
  • How to avoid spyware and malware
  • Virus Protection
  • Tips for Social Media usage

Basic Computer Security Awareness

Expand Your Operations Off-Shore Using a Build Operate Transfer Model

Smart companies looking to expand into foreign markets are now considering the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model. Companies often recognize the cost-savings opportunities and/or strategic advantages of establishing an off-shore presence. However, the task of establishing that off-shore presence may seem daunting due to the numerous risks, as well as the time and effort involved.

The BOT model reduces those risks and resource drains by effectively outsourcing the start-up and initial implementation process.

 

Here’s how it works:

The company wishing to establish an off-shore presence (the Client) selects a BOT provider (the Provider) with expertise in the industry as well intimate local knowledge of the proposed off-shore country. The Client and Provider enter into an agreement outlining their respective responsibilities during each of the three BOT phases.

BUILD: The Provider navigates the local laws and customs and establishes a new company in the foreign country. The Client and Provider then work together to select, design and/or build out a facility there.

OPERATE: The Client outsources work to the Provider for a specified period of time. During this phase, the Provider staffs and manages the new facility and is responsible for performing the work to Client’s specifications. The Client pays the Provider for services rendered.

TRANSFER: At the end of the Operate phase, the Client has the option, but typically not the obligation, to purchase the company outright. If the Client exercises its option to do so, it then owns its captive off-shore presence.

Big Advantages to the BOT Model:

  1. Increased speed to market off-shore for Client
  2. Reduced risks of mistakes—particularly geo-political issues involved with start-up and operations
  3. Reduced financial risk—The BOT financial commitment is only through the operate phase, while building one’s own center from scratch would typically be a longer term financial commitment by Client

What should I look for in a BOT Provider?

  1. Local knowledge—Political red-tape can slow progress and cause unanticipated expense. Does Provider have the contacts and local knowledge to help you establish your presence without hassle and unnecessary expense?
  2. Facility selection and start-up expertise—Location selection will be the most important decision because it is very, very difficult to reverse if you get it wrong. Has the Provider selected sites, built facilities and successfully staffed them?
  3. Operational expertise—The Provider is going to be conducting work for the Client for a specified period of time. Do they have the expertise to execute to the Client’s satisfaction during the Operate phase?
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9 Creative Ways to Use the Phone to Deliver Your Political Message

The Blues Brothers. Dodge Monaco Bluesmobile.

I always enjoyed the scene in the 1980’s classic movie, The Blues Brothers, where Elwood and Jake strap a stolen speaker to the top of their 1974 Dodge Monaco cruiser and comb Chicago announcing their big event “…One night only, at the fabulous Palace Hotel Ballroom…” If only getting your political message out was as easy, and fun, as driving around town, repeating the same message.

Elwood and Jake got the message repetition part right. The old adage, tell what you’re gonna’ tell ‘em; tell ‘em; and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em, still holds true. But outside of a Hollywood story, you also need a multi-channel approach in order to tell your message to the greatest number of influential voters and supporters.

In today’s higher tech society, a phone call might seem as old fashioned as a handshake outside the factory gate at shift change. But we know personal appeals do work and making that one-with-one connection can bring a laser focus to your message, unlike mass messages on radio and TV.

Even though there is a swarm of new technology out there, most people still answer their phones. In addition, new technologies allow you to use the phone in unique ways to support both voice and non-voice channels.

So here are 9 suggestions for amping up your campaign and getting your message heard.

Download All the Tips Now

1. Personal Appeal

Use live agents to personally contact your voter base to survey, explain and present your message. The big benefit of live agents is their ability to provide a response appropriate to the constituents level of engagement. Whether volunteers or hired professionals, a real live person has the ability to:

  1. Listen for and correct misconceptions
  2. Provide supporting statements to offset dissension
  3. Direct callers to websites or invite to local functions
  4. Take additional actions, such as fund raising, volunteer enlistment and patch through of the call to the appropriate elected official.

2. Mobile is HOT, so Text

This simple and effective method reaches younger audiences and is (to them) less intrusive. This is a cost-saving, effective way to tell others about your candidates. Provide website addresses and a toll free number for them to engage in your campaign further.

You don’t have to just tell them to vote for your candidate, either. Ideas include:

  1. Encourage them vote early while they are out running errands
  2. Contests such as essay submissions and testimonials for the website – give prizes!
  3. Send SMS alerts and campaign updates
  4. Ask a daily poll question or campaign slogan challenge
  5. Text them games or other offers with a political or candidate inspired theme

3. QR Codes

You see them everywhere these days. Those little grocery-store-bar-code-looking boxes can help unlock tons of information with the quick scan of a smartphone. And since more and more people are using smartphones these days, why not tap into that market by offering a QR code so voters can get to know your campaign?

Use QR codes on your direct mail pieces, yard signs and flyers (but avoid these uses). People who see them can scan them instantly to learn more about your campaign. Once they visit, offer a toll-free number or ask them if they wish to sign up for text alerts to stay  abreast of all campaign news and highlights.

4. Provide a Toll-Free Number

In your campaign materials, provide a toll-free number for voters to call and learn more about the campaign. This not only gives you the option to talk to them but it lets you know where they are getting information, so you can track it. Make sure the number is staffed appropriately.

Download the other 5 tips!

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9 Tips for Choosing a Compliant Outsourcing Provider

Recent changes by the FCC have closed loopholes used by aggressive marketing practitioners to use inexpensive and intrusive technology to flood consumers with robo calls (recorded messages) and texts. We think this is a good thing.

We all want to meet consumers on their terms and not detract from the relationship with poor communication.

 

One-with-one human interaction is an excellent way to provide service, share advice and offer compelling and helpful products and services. Working with a professional outsource company can impress your customer, improve your brand and grow your business.

So how do you design a successful outreach campaign and pick the right partner to ensure success?

Based on our experience, here are a few things to check.

1. Do you have a large and engaged consumer customer base, or prospect business base, that you can effectively market to?

If not, you will need to work with someone who can generate the leads for you.

2. Do you have compelling and valued products or services?

If you need more products or services to offer, the right company can provide suggestions of products or partners that do have appeal with your specific target group.

3. Is the partner experienced?

Many unscrupulous companies exist by reinventing themselves, frequently. Look for a company with a solid track record and long-standing clients.

4. Is the company compliant with laws and regulations?

This includes FTC and FCC regulations, as well as local and state laws. The American Teleservices Association (ATA) has an industry, peer review standard, called the Self-Regulating Organization (SRO), that helps demonstrate such compliance.  For health related issues there are Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements as well. Having a knowledgeable and compliant partner will allow you to avoid pitfalls and fines.

5. Do they protect all parties?

No one wins in a he-said-she-said battle with the consumer. Make sure your partner provides:

  • proper training to their representatives
  • has guidelines in place for all areas of consumer and data engagement
  • has a solid Do Not Call process to prevent and maintain customer preference
  • possesses the ability to record and store conversations, validate sales and verify compliance at all points in the process
How NOT to train Customer Service Representatives

How NOT to train Customer Service Representatives

6. Are their outbound presentations customer focused and engaging?

Look for an organization that treats all customer contact with a customer is king attitude. Not everyone will want your offer, so it is important to know how to make a positive impression with each contact, regardless of the channel.

7. Do they use technology to support the experience?

Aggressive dialer management, poor connections, even improper headset positioning, can lead to a breakdown in the customer experience. Make sure they can demonstrate an understanding of the technology, its proper use and sufficient training.

8. Can they integrate channels.

The customer you speak with today, may want to chat from your website tomorrow. When you can integrate the message through one provider, the message is more consistent and clear for the consumer. Blending, channel integration, live transfers, customer databases and other technology can support the user experience.

9. Do they take training seriously?

Great technology needs to be supported with great presentations. Make sure the focus on improving the agent’s skills are well documented. Top companies provide daily feedback, while others may coach monthly. Just knowing the product or service is not enough. Skills have to be honed in order to present professionally, question with purpose, respond appropriately and connect with the consumer.

Download “3 Strategies for Increasing Results in the Call Center Channel”

For more on recent regulations, read this.

To learn more about GCS, contact us, or check out our website.

GCS is in the professionally outsourced communication business. We want to help companies connect positively with their customers through multiple channels to delight customers, grow business and strengthen the brand. We support efforts by companies and regulators to continue to improve the ability to meet consumers in their preferred channel with professional and compelling presentations.
 
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FTC to Release Cell Phone Numbers from the Do Not Call Registry – Really?

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was going to release cell phone numbers to telemarketers and cell phone users only had a few days left to place their number on the National Do Not Call Registry.

We have uncovered the truth – The verdict: This rumor is FALSE.

If you been forwarded a similar email from a trusted source, you are safe to relegate it to your  junk email file along with other popular subjects, like…

  • Free airline tickets
  • You only have 5 days to live if you don’t forward this email
  • Miracle cure for wrinkles
  • Sure fire good luck ritual – click your heels three times, slap your knee, scroll to the bottom of the page, blow a kiss to your monitor and forward it to 30 of your closest friends.

Despite the handiness of the medium, emails are also one of the fastest methods for spreading baseless rumors and like a cat with nine lives, many seem to die off, only to live again months later.

According to Snopes.com, the FTC and cell phone number rumor is not true. The whole thing snowballed from a simple misunderstanding: “Cell phone numbers have generally been excluded from printed telephone books and directory assistance services. However, since the use of cell phones has grown in recent years, several national wireless companies (AllTel, AT&T, Cingular, Nextel, Sprint PCS and T-Mobile) banded together and hired Osent, Inc. to produce a Wireless 411 service. Their goal was to pool their listings to create a comprehensive directory of cell phone customer names and phone numbers that would be made available to directory assistance providers.”

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

There are two ways this list is being protected.

  1. Wireless users must “opt-in” into the system.
  2. The information (i.e. cell phone numbers) will not be made available in any other media or sold to telemarketing companies. It is only made available to operator service centers participating in the 411 service.

As for the Do Not Call Registry, there is no deadline, nor is there a need to look for a separate list. You can add any number, landline or mobile, to the DNC at any time.

That does not mean you will never receive a rogue call or wrong number to your cell phone. Moreover, there are legitimate and allowable reasons to call someone’s mobile phone, particularly if they have no landline. In fact, many consumers choose not to be included on the DNC registry. The trend is for the marketing industry and government entities to work together to find a solution that works to protect individual preference while providing a means to contact consumers and citizens when necessary.

Moral of the story: Don’t believe everything you read and keep deleting those junk emails.

Learn more about the Federal Trade Commission’s stance on the release of cell phone numbers.

As a provider of outsourced contact center services, GCS supports the Do Not Call Registry and seeks to work with our clients to provide customer care, informational support and valued offers by the consumers preferred method of contact.  If you would like to learn more about GCS, visit our website.

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